Let’s take heights seriously

Date published: 02 March 2022

HSENI has launched a campaign reminding the construction industry about the importance of using suitable access equipment, working platforms and edge protection when working at height.

Take heights seriously

Sadly since 2020, falls have killed nine workers carrying out construction work at height in Northern Ireland.

It is essential, for those in control of work at height, to make sure work is properly planned supervised and carried out by competent people with the skills, knowledge and experience to do the job. If in doubt seek advice from a competent health and safety professional as to how to carry the work out safely.

When planning work at height it is essential to select the most appropriate piece of work equipment for the activity to be undertaken such as properly erected external scaffolding when building a house, an extension or when having substantial roof or chimney works undertaken.

Always consider internal falls such as those from external scaffold platforms into the building or from openings, roof lights and voids.

Falls from flat roof edges can be prevented by providing temporary edge protection, e.g. double guardrail and toe board around the edge of the roof installed by a trained scaffolder or other suitable proprietary edge protection systems. When erected it should be strong and rigid enough to prevent people from falling.

A competent person also needs to assess the roof to ensure it is not fragile and can hold the weight of any people and materials to be used by them.

A mobile access tower or mobile elevated work platform (MEWP) such as a cherry picker may be the best options for shorter duration work and where the work activity can be carried out from within the platform such as maintenance and cleaning.

When working at height

  • Plan early for the provision of scaffold, edge protection or other work equipment;
  • Ensure scaffold is erected and modified by competent scaffolders at appropriate stages and inspections are carried out before being used for the first time, after any event likely to have affected strength and stability and at regular intervals not exceeding 7 days;
  • Ensure internal falls are considered and appropriate collective measures are provided such as staging, birdcage scaffolding or proprietary decking systems;
  • Consider light-wells and roof lights and ensure these are protected;
  • Take precautions when working on or near fragile surfaces;
  • Provide protection from falling objects;
  • Ensure the selection of the most appropriate MEWP, check it has a current Thorough Examination report and the operator has received appropriate MEWP training.

For further advice when working at heights in construction, please contact HSENI on 0800 0320 121 or visit the website: www.hseni.gov.uk/falls

Notes to editors: 

  1. The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) is an Executive Non-Departmental Public Body, sponsored by the Department for the Economy (DfE), and is the lead body responsible for the promotion and enforcement of health and safety at work standards in Northern Ireland: www.hseni.gov.uk
  2. For media enquiries please contact HSENI Press Office on 028 9024 3249 or email media@hseni.gov.uk. For out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer on 028 9037 8110.

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